Developers seeking a property tax break for a proposed 48-unit West Side apartment complex faced criticism Wednesday from West Side residents on the grounds that “luxury” apartments didn’t merit property tax abatement.
But City Council members on the Kansas City Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee in the end decided to send the proposal for 17th and Madison streets to the full council with a “do pass” recommendation.
The decision came five hours after the meeting was scheduled to begin.
Those who sat through the time heard project manager Austin Bradley, with EPC Real Estate, detail multiple changes in the proposed project that EPC made in response to neighbors’ complaints about density.
But former city councilman Robert Hernandez said the developers are “asking for profit at the expense of our poor community.” He said the West Side community doesn’t agree to a tax abatement request for “luxury housing in a poor community.”
The proposal asks for 100 percent abatement for 10 years and 50 percent for the following 15 years. The site currently is occupied by a vacant warehouse and bare ground. As it is, the property met several conditions to be declared blighted.
One neighbor brought a petition with 29 neighbors’ signatures in opposition to the project. In general, those neighbors continued to disagree with the size and nature of the project.
On the other hand, Kathy Marchant, a nearby property owner who participated in multiple neighborhood meetings with the developers, said most of the active participants in those discussions appreciated the downscaled nature of the plan.
“The concessions they made made it more comfortable to live with,” she said.
She added that if the EPC plan doesn’t go through, “the big issue is who’s going to buy it and what are they going to do there?”
Bradley said EPC had received a lot of support from neighbors who weren’t willing to go public because of neighborhood reaction. He said the company had worked hard to downsize the project in response to the neighbors but couldn’t do anymore.
He said the request for tax abatement was to help cover the added costs of underground parking, which was necessary to meet neighbors’ concerns about parking problems.
Bradley also said the apartment project intends to incorporate 30 percent “workforce,” or affordable, housing units so it wouldn’t be solely market-rate.
Matthew Malone, who owns a nearby home, said he didn’t want to see the neighborhood become “a sea of apartment houses” that would destroy the character of the neighborhood.
Malone also said he gets repeated offers to buy his house, and he doesn’t think that a “hot” neighborhood like the West Side merits tax subsidies.
Other neighbors asked for the committee to continue the matter and require the developer to bring a different project to the table.
The council committee had before it an ordinance to declare the property on the southwest corner of 17th and Madison streets blighted and in need of rehabilitation.
Also on the agenda was an ordinance to rezone the one-acre tract to mixed-use development and a resolution to amend the existing Greater Downtown Area Plan to change the property from low-density to high-density residential use.
The committee approved all three unanimously.
The plan includes about 6,000 square feet of ground-floor office space and an underground parking garage in addition to a 40-unit three-story apartment building and an eight-unit building next to it.
EPC’s presentation to the council committee was significantly downscaled from an earlier redevelopment plan that had earned approval from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. PIEA commissioners in January approved EPC’s overall plan, which then called for 60 residential units and 12,000 square feet of commercial space, including a restaurant and a patio.
The PIEA approval paved the way for EPC to seek property tax abatement from the City Council.